THE matriarch of Chester Zoo’s Asian elephant herd, Sheba, has died after a short illness.
Sheba, 56, has been at the zoo for 46 years and was the zoo’s oldest elephant. Affectionately known as Madam Sheba by the team who looked after her, she had been at the zoo longer than any other elephant.
Sheba had been ill for a short time and despite the best efforts of the keeping team and zoo’s veterinarians the decision was taken to euthanise her. She died on Wednesday afternoon.
Dr Mark Pilgrim, Director General of Chester Zoo, said: "The death of an animal is always hard, nevermore so than for everyone who has been involved in looking after it every day and Sheba’s death is a huge loss to all who cared for her.
"Sheba had a long and happy life with us; she had a strong personality – intelligent and sometimes stubborn - and she thought the elephant section belonged just to her. She was a good elephant with a will of her own. Sheba had a way with the other elephants too and was able to keep the others in line.
"I have no doubt the elephants will miss her too - Sheba adopted and raised our male Upali from when he first came to us, and they had a particularly close bond.
"Sheba will be missed by all of us here and the visitors with whom she was a particular favourite. This is a sad day for all concerned and I would like to thank all those who worked so hard to help her towards the end."
Chester Zoo is home to eight Asian elephants: Maya, Jangoli, Sundara, Thi, Upali, Sithami, Nayan and a female calf, born at the end of January.
Notes to editors:
Chester Zoo is a registered conservation charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire.
Welcoming 1.4 million visitors a year, it is the largest zoo in the UK; home to 7000 animals, 400 different species, many of which are endangered.
Asian Elephant Conservation Programme
Chester Zoo, in partnership with EcoSystems-India, initiated the Assam Haathi Project (AHP) in 2004.
This project works closely with local villages in human-elephant conflict (HEC) areas in Assam, India. HEC is a growing problem throughout Asia as elephant forest habitat continues to shrink and landscapes become dominated by people and agriculture. The result of this is damage to farmers' crops and buildings, human deaths and sometimes the retaliatory killing of elephants. The AHP is helping villagers develop techniques to reduce HEC and is researching long-term strategies for elephant conservation in these areas.